Leaning my head against the brick house, I inhale deeply. The stone feels cool, yet rough against my open palms. I can feel the bass vibrating through the structure and into my torso as the party is now in full swing.
The sun has just set, leaving the sky a breathtaking colored mixture of midnight blue, fusion pink, and crimson yellow. The stars twinkle above me and I’m sure if I were at home, in bed, where my father believes me to be, I would also be able to make out the constellations. Although, where the moon has gone, I have no clue.
What I do know is I’m late.
Fashionably, of course, but late nonetheless.
“We’re in position,” Anthony’s boyish voice brings my tiny earpiece to life. “Copy that,” I mutter as I round the corner to the front of the house, anxiousness tickling my insides.
The massive circular driveway is lined with lavishly expensive vehicles and I can’t control the disgust that must grace my face... all that money wasted on luxury for the despicable and greedy. Whoever owns the car lot that sells such pricey imports is probably making a killing.
Neon lights from the party escape through the windows, illuminating the walkway and guiding my path. I send a silent thank you to the goddess of the moon. She only knows how much shit I’d be in if my heels caught on this ridiculously hideous dress, and ungracefully landed me face-first on the concrete.
Okay, okay, it’s not that bad of a dress it’s just not my style—candy apple red, with a low cut sweetheart neckline and a high slit cut up the side that provides my lady parts with a cold breeze I am just not sure I’m comfortable with. My current hobby tends to be quite dangerous so obviously, I can’t wear my typical choice of jeans or yoga pants... not that I could get into this party dressed so casually anyway.
The long black wig upon my head is hot and itchy against my scalp. It’s driving me absolutely bonkers. The flawless makeup Keeley caked onto my face feels thick and suffocating to my pores. My skin can’t breathe in this get up.
“You good, Cat?” Rhys asks me through the earpiece.
So out of my element, I wonder if I somehow slipped into a nightmare I cannot wake from but yes, fake it ’till you make it, Catalina.
“Yep,” I whisper as I close in on the bouncers guarding the front door. The big, bald one holds the clipboard with a list of permitted guests. I know my name is on that list... maybe not my real name but eh, it was a necessary evil. I’ve spent too much time, shed too much blood, sweat, and tears in preparation for this heist. It can’t be all for not by the tiny, insignificant detail of my given name.
Honestly, I’m probably not even registered legally as a United States citizen. I don’t know how that works since I’m not part of any wolf pack.
“Name,” the bald bouncer demands. His beady eyes linger on my body longer than I would like, but I hold tight to my resolve. Technically, I could snap his bulging neck with the flick of my wrist, but I refrain.
“Olivia Westchester,” I smile shyly. Crossing my arms in front of me to lift my small boobage, I twirl my hair like the bimbo I’m supposed to portray. Its almost too easy as the bouncer licks his lips and grins wickedly at me. A low, quiet moan resonates from within his chest.
Goddess, do I feel like I’ve set women back by decades.
To my dismay, he doesn’t even check the list after that. I internally sigh, all that effort for nothing.
Hovering so close above me, I can feel his hot, moist breath caress my ear, “Enjoy the party, Ms. Westchester.” His tone was sensual, thick, and velvety, hinting at the promise of a “good time,” something I am definitely not willing to give.
Swallowing back the bile that rose to my throat I flash him an award-winning smile and strut straight into the pretentious house party of one Ian Malory. “I’m in,” I voice through smiling teeth as numerous hungry human eyes languorously follow my every move through the large foyer of the mansion.
“Copy. We got eyes on you,” Keeley whispers back to me. I smirk, knowing that can only mean one thing: she and Anthony have infiltrated the security room.
Right. On. Schedule.
Keeley will watch the cameras and take care of the guards while Anthony does what Anthony does.
15 minutes—tops. We can’t afford a second longer.
Off to my right is a sizable, open area, set up to resemble a club-type atmosphere. The music becomes louder and the bass bumps harder as I near; my chest feels every vibrating thud.
It is not pleasant.
Vulgar colored couches and lounge chairs line the room. People sprawl drunkenly about, their faces hidden by the sway and flow of the rave lights, continue chatting loudly, laughing obnoxiously.
I resist the urge to roll my eyes. I may be young but the typical chaotic atmosphere of parties like this has never appealed to me—the company is never exciting and the drinks always hold the possibility of a drug I certainly never wish to experience.
It is unimpressive in the most naked and raw sense of the word.
My eyes proceed to scan the room. A dance floor is haphazardly placed in the center of the huge space. Sweaty and half naked bodies dry hump the person closest to them. It’s extremely erotic, and surprisingly, sexy. I wince at my discomfort. I am in no way prudish, but I also can’t bring myself to enjoy watching humans practically screw in public.
The DJ works the turntable with one hand, the other bouncing in the air with the beat of the music. He’s stationed on a raised platform to my left, in front of the dancing crowd that reeks of alcohol, sex, and bad decisions.
Through the hot, tangled mess of bodies, on the opposite side of the room, is a professional bar—just what I need. It’s the obvious choice for someone like me that wants nothing more than to observe, not participate. And, low and behold, Lady Luck is shitting me out some good stuff tonight because the bar placement is giving me the perfect view of Ian.
With his nasty burnt ember red hair, the man sticks out like a sore thumb all thanks to his deep Irish roots. His ugly, pinched, weasel-like face is buried deep into the hair of a blonde gold digger on his right. To his left, sits a darker blonde skank who is lustfully stroking his thigh. He has his scrawny, freckly arms around them both. Honestly, his vast amounts of blood money is more than likely the sole reason his cock is ever graced by a woman.
Of course, I’m only speculating because I have actual standards...
“Target in sight,” I let my crew know I’ve spotted the drug lord. “What’s his status?” Keeley’s soft and melodious voice questions me. She wants to know if he’s distracted.
She gets her wish.
“Occupied,” I really can’t control the disdain in my tone. Watching him from afar, enjoying the fruits of his labor and the attention of his whores makes my blood boil. While people are dying by his hand, he appears not to have a care in the world.
Suddenly, a drink looking suspiciously like whiskey is thrust in front of me and sat neatly on a napkin so as not to ruin the lacquered bar top finish. I raise a questioning eyebrow at the Irish brick wall before me. His hands are placed palms down on top of the bar, supporting his weight as he leans closer to speak with me. His forearms are muscular, every inch covered in colorful ink that extends up his grotesquely massive biceps and onward under the rolled-up sleeves of his white t-shirt. I’m not sure how he squeezed his huge chest into that shirt but it fits him like a second skin. “On the house, love,” he winks.
Not my type, but I do just adore that Irish accent.
Screw it, I’ll bite, I think as I remember I’m not Catalina Bakkas tonight.
I am Olivia Westchester.
Hiding a portion of my face lazily behind the glass, I peer up at him from under these stupidly heavy fake lashes. The corner of my lip curls upwards, “And is that the only thing ‘on the house’ tonight?” I wrap my lips around the straw stirrer but only pretend to suck. I dare not drink the dark liquid as my trust in my new “friend” is unimaginably lacking.
Cue the obvious slow burn of my eyes skimming over his body and—
“Aye, an Aussie kiss if ye fancy,” he gives me a seductive smirk.
—Gotcha, ya big Irish brute.
What the fuck is an Aussie kiss...
“I don’t think that’s necessary, Seth. Maybe a rain check for the girl, yeah?” A masculine voice beside me cuts through the awkward tension. ‘Seth’ gives his affirmation by way of a quick nod, turning heel and walking away quizzically fast.
Not allowing me to ponder the strange reaction of the Irish barkeep, that voice beside meis now insistent on obtaining my attention, “Hi.”
Oh for Pete’s sake.
I can feel the annoyance well up in my body, my wolf instincts urging me to growl but once again, I refrain. Mustering up what I’m sure comes out as an obviously fake smile, I turn to the source of my instant frustration. Honestly, he did nothing wrong outwardly. It’s me. I should have noticed a presence beside me before he had a chance to announce himself and I didn’t. I must be off my game tonight.
Dangerous—especially for a werewolf.
A rectangular face with an exquisitely chiseled jawline holds large green eyes and perfect, bright white teeth—a welcoming smile that seems genuine adorns a handsome, godlike face. And once my traitorous brain sends a message to my heart that my eyes rather like what they see, it in turn, beats faster. He smells of red hot cinnamon and danger and my thighs immediately clench together without warning.
Damn these werewolf hormones.
Thankfully, he shatters my transfixed allurement by sticking his hand out in front of me, “I’m Alex.”
“Olivia,” I shake his calloused hand, feeling my wits slowly return to me. There was a quick flash of surprise or confusion in his eyes, I know not which but I don’t think twice about it. Just as swiftly as it had appeared, it is gone, leaving me to question if I had ever seen it in the first place. He smiles once more, regaining his composure.
I’m currently seeing red flags...
I can’t exactly pinpoint why other than I am on a mission and Tall, Blonde and Handsome is distracting me. Its also no comfort with Keeley buzzing in my ear, “Mm, who’s this yummilicious bottle of water? Give me some of that!”
Not helping, girl. Really.
“I wouldn’t drink it if I were you,” Alex states pointedly.
“E-excuse me?” I practically choke on my spit. There is absolutely no way he can hear Keeley in my ear... is there? I feel the heat explode in my cheeks at the thought.
Thankfully, the jut of his jaw indicates he’s referring to the glass of whiskey in my hand. Relief washes over me in waves. Of course, he couldn’t hear what was said inside my ear, I’m just being stupid... and he is making me unnaturally nervous. “Oh,” I chuckle, “Hadn’t planned on it.”
“Smart,” he smirks, “I like that.” Goddess, have mercy. Is he really hitting on me? It’s not that I wasn’t used to attention from the opposite sex, I got plenty of it thanks to my werewolf genes. What kind of predator would we be if we were not abnormally good-looking?
“Dance with me,” he whispers, inches from my face but not close enough to make me feel threatened. Most men are not aware of those boundaries but this one, well, he seems to know which side of the line to stay on.
My nerves go haywire nonetheless—this is not part of my plan. By guesstimate alone, I assume I have about five minutes before I need to cut out so there’s no reason why I can’t accept a quick dance with a beautiful stranger... even if, instinctively, I’m wary of him.
I’m very sure that my dad had once (possibly multiple times if I was being honest) used the phrase, “curiosity killed the cat,” and I’m even more certain it’s because of my naturally curious nature. It has gotten me into trouble more than once and this delectable GQ snack definitely has me curious. But hell, I’m already walking a fine line tonight, all things considered, so why not?
But before I can accept the invitation, a sudden strong, unyielding urge to look at the dance floor causes my eyes to unintentionally stray from Alex. I don’t consciously know what I’m looking for but something deep within me tells me it won’t be hard to find.
I’ll know it when I see it.
And see it, I do.
Men and women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities move euphorically to the beat, lost to the music in suspended animation. A man, looking not much older than myself, stands motionless among the chaotic swaying and gyrating of the crowd.
He’s thin, but lean, dressed in a zipped-up blue hoodie and jeans—blatant disrespect for Ian Malory and his tiresome party.
His dark blonde hair is thick and lustrous, tousled wildly on top of his head, giving him a carefree persona. His face is strong, well defined with a youthful glow, but his dark eyebrows are sloping downwards and slightly pinched in a seriousness that does not look like it belongs on such an attractive face—a seriousness I immediately feel, for some reason, is directed soley at me.
I don’t know who he is, I don’t recognize him. His features are unfamiliar. But I certainly know, without a shadow of a doubt, what he is.
It’s in the eyes you see, because if you are ever unfortunate enough to experience the glowing, swirling fury of the eyes of an Ancient, you better hope—no, pray—they are not focused on you for the probability of experiencing another breath of life would be a grave mistake.
I feel the rapid beat of my heart pulsing through my being, the hitch of my breath as I realize I am, indeed, the victim caught in the storm of those eyes. The intensity of his stare nearly knocks me off my feet.
There’s a foreboding there. A warning—Get out. Leave. Run—Don’t you fucking dare do what I know you’re going to do.
My breathing increases in frequency, resulting in a big gulp from my throat as my brain scrambles to decipher the meaning of it all.
I’ve never seen an Ancient in human form, though I had befriended one. So how am I certain that this particular Ancient is not my MIA best friend? Even I have no answer for that.
I just do.
This is not Theron.
The sensation of a strong hand firmly grasping my forearm pulls my attention away from the Ancient. “Hey, what’s wrong?” Alex yells over the music. I haven’t a clue as to what look might be written all over my face but there’s concern on his part.
“I don’t...” my eyes flash from his and then back to the dance floor. How do I explain to a human stranger what just happened? I look to the Ancient, helplessly... only he’s no longer there, “know...”
A figment of my imagination.
I scan the room fanatically, only to wind up empty-handed. He’s disappeared, leaving me with nothing more than an indecipherable glare.
What the actual hell...
“Package obtained,” Keeley burst through the airway, knocking me right back into reality.
I speedily turn back to Alex, thankful for an excuse to get the hell out, “I have to go.” Wrenching myself from his hand I push through the crowd, ignoring his voice that calls out for me. I have more important things to do than mess around with a guy I don’t know. I still have one more stop to make before my revenge on Ian Malory will be satiated.
And apparently, an Ancient to be on the lookout for.
Keeley and Rhys are loading the black bags into the trunk of our getaway car as I come into view. Anthony sees me first, feverishly waving for me to hurry my ass, “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” Attempting to run while pulling off my heels, I waste no time. If Anthony says we need to go, then we need to go.
With the boys up front, I jump into the back seat, heart pounding. Rhys speeds off before I can even close my door. “What the hell happened?” I demand as Keeley hands me my street clothes.
All accusing eyes turn to sweet, innocent Anthony and I’m immediately confused, “Anthony?” I can hear the tremor in my voice, the uncertainty. I want to chalk it up to the adrenaline pumping through my veins but I know that would be a lie.
All of us had planned this down to the tee—dotted our “I’s” and everything, yet the apprehension in the car kicks my senses into overdrive and being left out of the loop has me thrown for one. I don’t know what happened and when I don’t know what happened, I can’t predict the next move on the chessboard.
“Uh, well...” he rubs the back of his neck before turning around in the passenger seat to face me. Keeley is currently taking off my wig and fixing my real hair but I pay her no mind. My focus is on the nerd in front of me. The guy that is always meticulous, the guy that always follows the rules—the same guy that has his day scheduled out, straightens out every crooked object or wall hanging wherever he goes, never misses a chance to correct your every word, doesn’t eat anything other than the same ten foods he’s been eating his entire life—That Anthony.
“I may have left a parting gift?” He says. But it’s the tone that has my wolf on edge... that tone that sounds suspiciously like a question instead of a statement. My eyes immediately narrow in on my friend and I hiss, “What did you do?”
The slightest deviation in our plan could bring the whole thing down but now my concern lies in the demeanor of my co-conspirator as he bites his lip nervously.
Suddenly, the sky in our rearview lights up with a huge explosion—one I am quite sure came from the residence we just left. All eight eyes in the vehicle snap towards the house.
A large fireball bellows into the sky, shaking the ground beneath us, momentarily stunting our forward progress.
The car comes to a screeching halt.
Very slowly, all gazes turn accusingly to Anthony who sheepishly shrugs, in the most aggravatingly nonchalant way ever, “Oops?”
“Dude! What the fuck, man? You said it would be a small bang!” Rhys is now chastising Anthony like the man isn’t just as guilty here. My eyebrows raise in disbelieving cynicism, “You knew about this, Rhys?!”
I suddenly feel very betrayed.
“I-I... might have had some... um, knowledge?” My sentry replies, now confirming my suspicions: they purposely did not tell me about this. Incredulously, I turn to Keeley, “And you?”
She winces in response, “Yeah...”
I throw my hands up in pure bewildered frustration. Falling back into the seat, I cross my arms over my chest, “Does anyone want to explain to me why that—" I use both thumbs to point behind me, “—happened?”
“Icing on the cake...”
“Fucker got off too easy...”
They all start speaking at once and I instantly need to pinch the area between my eyes. I feel a headache coming on.
“Just shut up! All of you!” I exclaim, “Let me think!” My body starts to relax as the car grows instantly and deathly quiet. I can hear the sound of the purring engine from my spot in the back seat. It’s repetitive... soothing. I inhale deeply and slowly release, controlling my inner beast from snarling at the flagrant disrespect from my friends.
Feeling very lost and alone at this moment, my hand habitually goes to my chest in an attempt to grab onto the only thing that brings me comfort... but unfortunately, I touch only skin.
Panic grips me swiftly when I realize it’s no longer around my neck. Shooting straight up, I frantically search around me, patting my body, my pockets, the seat—anything and everything near me fearing I have lost the most meaningful thing in the world to me.
No, no, no, this can’t be!
Where did it go?
Where did it go?!
Keeley, sensing my hysteria, places a reassuring hand on my shoulder. The passing street lights illuminate her dyed hair—the color and semblance of fire, much like that which resides within her soul. “Hey,” she whispers calmly, “Here,” her open palm presents my heart necklace to me, a gentle, encouraging smile upon her face.
Relief floods my body as I see my best friend’s precious gift safe and secure within Keeley’s grasp. Unconsciously, I sigh, blinking away the tears that threatened to expose my fraught interior. “Thank you,” I softly say. She nods, staring at my necklace as I place it back around my neck, forthwith feeling less afraid and lonely, “Are you ever going to tell me the story behind that?”
Relaxing back in the seat, my fingers move the charm around the chain as I look out the window, absentmindedly watching the scenery fly by. There’s a lot my new friends don’t know about me... a lot I have kept to myself. I would sooner tell them I was a werewolf than share my love for Theron.
I miss him so much it hurts.
But I keep our story tightly secure within the confines of my heart, afraid if I recount the small time spent with him, it will feel less personal... less real. I desperately want to keep those memories a secret, not because I was ashamed of him or forgot any part of the past, but because they were ours.
Mine and his.
So forever they will stay, locked away, now an integral part of the organ that keeps the blood flowing through my veins.
I whisper to the window, “Maybe one day.”Because ”maybe one day,” can be the response to more than one question that floats around invisibly in the back seat of this car.